Friday, November 25, 2016

Northern Mythology and the Trolls' Christmas By Benjamin Thorpe 1851


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Of the manner in which the Trolls celebrate Christmas eve there are traditions throughout the whole North. At that time it is not advisable for Christian men to be out. On the heaths Witches and little Trolls ride, one on a wolf, another on a broom or a shovel, to their assemblies, where they dance under their stones. These stones are then raised on pillars, under which the Trolls dance and drink. In the mount are then to be heard mirth and music, dancing and drinking. On Christmas morn, during the time between cock-crowing and daybreak, it is highly dangerous to be abroad.

One Christmas night in the year 1490, as Fru Cissela Ulftand was sitting in her mansion at Liungby in Scania, a great noise was heard proceeding from the Trolls assembled at the Magle stone, when one of the lady's boldest servants rode out to see what was going on. He found the stone raised, and the Trolls in a noisy whirl dancing under it. A beautiful female stept forth, and presented to the guest a drinking horn and a pipe, requesting him to drink the Troll-king's health and to blow in the pipe. He took the horn and pipe, but at the same instant clapped spurs to his horse, and galloped straight, over rough and smooth, to the mansion. The Trolls followed him in a body with a wild cry of threats and prayers, but the man kept the start, and delivered both horn and pipe into the hands of his mistress. The Trolls promised prosperity and riches to Fru Cissela's race, if she would restore their pipe and horn; but she persisted in keeping them, and they are still preserved at Liungby, as memorials of the wonderful event. The horn is said to be of an unknown mixture of metals with brass ornaments, and the pipe of a horse's leg-bone. The man who stole them from the Trolls died three days after, and the horse on the second day. Liungby mansion has been twice burnt, and the Ulftand family never prospered afterwards. This tradition teaches that Christians should act justly even towards Trolls.

It is also related of some priests, who were riding before daybreak by a mount on a Christmas morning, while the Trolls were at their sports, how a Berg- or Mount-woman came out and offered them drink in metal bowls; and how they cast the drink behind them, but that some drops chanced to fall on the horses' loins and burned the hair off. The bowls they carried away with them, and such are still to be found in several churches, where, it is said, they were formerly used as chalices.

This drink, which the Trolls were in the habit of offering so liberally, was believed to have the property of obliterating from the memory all the past, and of rendering the guest who partook of it contented with all he met with in the mount.

On the wall of Voxtorp church in Smaland there is a painting representing a knight named Herve Ulf, when one Christmas morning he received a drinking horn from a Troll-wife with one hand, while with his sword he struck off her head with the other, kept the horn and rode to church. In remembrance of this deed, the king commanded him to call himself Trolle, and to take a Troll without a head for his armorial bearing. Such is the origin of the noble name of Trolle. This wonderful horn was of three hundred colours, and was first preserved in the cathedral of Wexio; but when the Danes in 1570 burned Wexio, the horn was carried to Denmark.

It is said that the Trolls are very prolific, but that their offspring for the most part dies when it thunders; whence the saying: "Were it not for thunder, the Trolls would destroy the world."

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